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Table 3 Selected clinical signs displayed up to 4 weeks prior to cull

From: Pruritus is a common feature in sheep infected with the BSE agent

Postmortem diagnosis BSE POSITIVE BSE NEGATIVE P
Clinical sign Present Absent Present Absent *
Behavioural abnormalities
Change in behaviour (dull or nervous) 27 (61%) 17 (39%) 7 (10%) 60 (90%) +++
Bruxism when handled 11 (27%) 30 (73%) 4 (6%) 58 (94%) +
Bruxism when free during examination 6 (15%) 35 (85%) 4 (6%) 58 (94%) ns
Bruxism frequently during observations 7 (23%) 12 (40%) 0 (0%) 58 (89%) +++
Bruxism occasionally during observations 6 (20%)   0 (0%)   +++
Bruxism during observations once 5 (17%)   7 (11%)   ns
Sensory abnormalities (pruritus)
Rubbing or scratching frequently 19 (63%) 2 (7%) 8 (12%) 27 (43%) +++
Rubbing or scratching occasionally 7 (23%)   11 (17%)   +
Rubbing or scratching once 2 (7%)   19 (28%)   ns
Nibbling frequently 5 (17%) 13 (43%) 0 (0%) 43 (68%) +
Nibbling occasionally 7 (23%)   0 (0%)   ++
Nibbling once 5 (17%)   20 (32%)   ns
Positive scratch test 35 (85%) 6 (16%) 1 (2%) 61 (98%) +++
Fleece changes 19 (40%) 28 (60%) 10 (11%) 77 (89%) ++
Alopecia 26 (55%) 21 (45%) 3 (3%) 86 (97%) +++
Skin lesions 15 (32%) 32 (68%) 3 (3%) 86 (97%) +++
Self-induced scratch response 27 (75%) 9 (25%) 3 (5%) 62 (95%) +++
Abnormalities in movement
Tremors 22 (52%) 20 (48%) 4 (6%) 64 (94%) +++
Ataxia 23 (49%) 24 (51%) 1 (1%) 90 (99%) +++
Physical changes
Weight loss >10% 12 (25%) 9 (22%) 1 (2%) 48 (70%) +++
Weight loss 5–10% 5 (13%)   1 (2%)   +
Weight loss < 5% 15 (35%)   7 (10%)   +++
Weight remained the same 2 (5%)   11 (16%)   ns
Loss of body condition 20 (57%) 15 (43%) 13 (34%) 25 (66%) ns
  1. * P-values: + ≤ 0.01;
  2. ++ ≤ 0.001;
  3. +++ ≤ 0.0001;
  4. ns statistically not significant (P > 0.05)
  5. The BSE-negative subset included challenged and unchallenged animals. The homogeneity of the clinical signs within this subset was proven by Fisher's exact test (P > 0.05)